Category Archives: marriage

It isn’t full circle

It isn’t full circle, I have to tell myself that, when I find myself in a chair no one held six years ago when I was falling apart and people asked, “Was I doing okay,” but took it at mostly face value when I said yes, then let me fall apart and drop off the face of the earth, only to slowly scotch tape, duct tape, Krazy glue myself back together with no one’s particular help (no matter how much I did try to ask, too little too late, but still, I did ask and they vowed, marital, Hippocratic, parental, but still, they all failed, when asked they unanswered).

It isn’t full circle, I have to tell myself that, that I now sit in the chair that no one held six years ago and tell the truth I did not want to hear.  ”You are not doing okay,” I say, and lay out the hard options, which are take the time off which is some hardship, or take the exit and the door will hit you hard in the ass on the way out, and trust me, that will take longer to recover from.  I don’t say, “I’ve been there,” but I do say that maybe the time off will give them time to straighten things out, and if not, at least give them time to make a more graceful exit.  It’s hard to be kind, but if it’s not kind, it’s true, and it’s a truth no one told me and a tough love I had to learn all by myself (a love for myself I had to learn, too, when the people who owed me nothing didn’t bother to extend me anything, either).

So, no. It isn’t full circle.  It’s miles and loops and six years ahead of myself. And fuck yes, it’s hard, because I want to cry with them, too, and cry for myself, for who I was then and still always will be, just a bit, always a little raggedy-broken unevenly stuck to myself in places it hurts to detach myself from to sit in a different chair than where I ever expected to be— but that is the joy and the pain of learning and growing and doing something for others that no one bothered to do for you.

It isn’t full circle, it’s a line, and it’s a line going forward. That’s better.

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Late realization (the wannabe cat lady’s lament)

Sometimes I think back and wonder what the hell I was thinking,
staying so long with someone whose objection to cats was cat hair
and the commitment that might be involved in getting someone
to feed them if we ever went on the vacations we didn’t take all that much,
that and protecting all that hand-me-down furniture we never paid for.
I could have been cuddling (for decades) a wet-nosed purr-ball of love
instead of someone afraid of mess and commitment. After all,
if you can’t fix it with duct tape, a swiffer, and other friends
who have cats, you need to reexamine your choices.

I’m off to the pound.

(Easier than) waiting around to die

(Trigger warnings for discussions of suicidality, family drama, and other A+ parenting issues.  Also, as usual, language.  This is a sort of undecided, sort of open-ended piece because I need to tweak my meds again and am feeling more than a little blue, but I have already called my shrink & let my therapist know I feel lousy, in case you’re wondering.)

I read some author’s line someplace that we sometimes feel like can’t be who we really are until everyone who’s known us is dead.  Sometimes, it’s even true by circumstances of money or other constraints– you don’t have the freedom to tell other people and their expectations to go screw, and sometimes just heading out for the hills and reinventing yourself somewhere, somewhen else is not in the cards. Continue reading

Barking mad

There’s a large (large) standard black poodle who lives across the street– I never see him being taken out for a walk, though I’ll admit my own hours are irregular enough.  When I see him, it’s because I’m walking home from the bus stop and he’s got the run of the side & back yard, but is otherwise locked out of the house.

Every single time, this absolute monster of a dog hurls himself bodily down the stairs and at the wooden fence around the yard until it shudders, barking his head off in a furor.  It’s scary, how violently he hurls himself against the fence, and today as I was walking back to the house I noted that a part of the fence was actually broken and down– and that he wasn’t out, snarling and barking and otherwise creating a ruckus of– well, it’s hard to tell.  Was he trying to get back in the house?  Out of the yard?  Trying to tear off the head of any intruder?  Or taken someplace where he didn’t have a cruddy little side yard as his only outdoors, when he stands probably four feet tall at his head?  (This dog is big, and so is his bark.)

Since today’s bus ride was punctuated by what I’d thought was a crazy lady who was also the offspring of a racist dyspeptic parrot with nonstop complaints about the way the current MBTA was run– only to find, later, once the bus was less crammed, that it was the driver herself who was making all us poor entrapped riders absolutely crazy having to listen to all of her yammer about the goddamned demographic changes to my fair city, traffic, and the general state of the world (and I do mean nonstop), the broken fence on the way home had me noting Scary Poodle’s absence and wondering– how does he get his walks in– and his barking fury all out– when the fence is broken, poor thing?  And why did none of us shout at the crazy bus driver to just CAN IT ALREADY?

I’ve been feeling particularly invisible and unheard lately– it’s something that gets triggered whenever there’s a flare up with my mom, and then my dad will push those buttons as well.  Partly it’s seasonal depresssion & med changes, partly it’s some work situational stuff, but some of it is stuff that I’ve never been good at dealing with and when I get angry or sad, I get really silent until I don’t, at which point I explode, and either rant and rave or get razor sharp.  In the former case, I get told I’m crazy, and in the latter case, I get told I’m mean, but in either event they’re emotions that aren’t allowed because I’m the in control one, and if I’m angry and inarticulate and pissed off and just want time to myself, then that is a massive inconvenience to the people (former husband, father, people at work) whom I usually help.  I’m in a sort of build-up stage right now and have been tweaking my meds, but my dad has also been really crazy lately and my husband particularly stupid about a tax matter even though he fucked me over a few years ago so I don’t know why he expected he could hone in on joint filing status forever, and so I am really primed to be pushed into a reaction that’s horrid, explosive, and mean if either of them (or some particular situations at work) push me the wrong way.  Mostly, I’ve been trying to keep my mouth shut until I can calm down enough to say something to the point and not too awful.

The fact remains, though– in any situation where my BULLSHIT meter gets jammed, my reaction might be amplified, but the fact that I have a mental health diagnosis doesn’t mean that I am not allowed to just be normally tired, exhausted, annoyed, pissed off, and in need of blowing off steam in ways I would never express in public, but ought to be allowed to do safely, at home, without judgement, in safety, at home.  Isn’t that what home is supposed to be?  A safe, supportive environment where your needs are respected?  (Excuse me for a moment of hysterical laughter at the lack of ever having had that, and yet asking that rhetorical question.)

Criticizing me, telling me that I’m wrong to feel the way that I do or that I chose my situation and so I just need to suck it up, refusing to actually listen to the words coming out of my mouth because your own paranoia/denial is so in the way, or cross-examining me about a situation you know nothing about and that you can’t be bothered to stop interrupting me long enough to pay attention to and actually be curious enough to actually learn– all that does is make me fucking furious and invisible and ashamed all at once, because what it says to me is you think I’m doing it wrong even though you have no idea how to do it yourself, and that I have no right to have a shitty day, though you have every right to complain about your shitty life without having to hear criticism about the way your shitty life choices have fed into your current circumstances.  Pardon me for affording you the safe space and the respect of believing you’re an adult who’s aware of your own shortcomings and that except in more dire moments I don’t need to constantly remind you that on occasion, you can be kind of an ass (or whatever descriptor is relevant to the moment at hand)– and that I let you have the audience your ego needs, but you can’t let me just vent in peace, and can’t stand your own company, either, to the extent that when I need solitude you have to pester me to the point that you do trigger a manic raging reaction, because you can’t fix it, and it’s not my obligation to make you feel better about the fact that I’m not paying attention to you or being the competent one in the face of your asking if I want a cup of tea, or what am I making for supper?

I DON’T WANT TEA, and you can make your own fucking food.  I want you to stop interrupting me.  I want you to listen.  I want you to care.  I want you to not criticize my choices, because God knows you’ve made your fair share.  And if you can’t keep your mouth shut on what you think is “useful advice,” then goddamned bite your tongue and repeat the Golden Rule inside your head until you memorize it, because I am capable of making my own bad decisions, including whether I am sleeping too much or not eating enough or spending too much time in my room, and I care too much about your opinion, so consequently, I am no longer going to let myself give one flying fuck what you think, because you can’t be bothered to pay attention, to listen, to really care to anything except your own emotional comfort.

That crazy poodle who broke that fence might have been scary, but I know how he feels– sometimes you just have to throw yourself at the wall, over and over, yelling at the top of your lungs, until something cracks.  And while today’s crazy bus driver had a captive audience to her solo performance and no one responded, I kind of get what she was doing.  Sometimes you just have to keep repeating yourself, no matter how crazy you sound, over and over, until someone responds.  Even if it’s just a “have a nice day” when you get off the bus.

I do hope the poodle made his escape.

Button-pushing, compliments, feeling heard, body shaming & how to ask– how are you?

Trigger, kneejerk, hot-button– whatever you call it, we all have them, mental health diagnosis & crappy life experiences or not.  It’s our choice, once we become conscious of those hot topics, to decide how we react when other people start mashing those buttons, on purpose or not.

Sometimes it’s easier to control your reaction.  Sometimes it’s not.  Sometimes you can have a conversation with the person who’s pushing your buttons and ask them to stop, take another approach, whatever– fill them in, ask them to be mindful.  And sometimes your hot-button “do not want mentioned around me” topic is their “I have to talk about this all the time” issue, because for them, it’s a life-or-death issue they need to be active around.  And sometimes, they’re objectively reasonable, or just subjectively trying to keep their head above water.  In either case, if you’ve said your piece and they aren’t going to mute themselves, it’s time to start tuning them out.

It all comes down to making sure you feel heard, feel seen– and if you’re feeling ignored, you need to do what you can to protect yourself from feeling unworthy of being heard, of being seen.  You are visible.  You should be as loud as you want.  And you should distance yourself from whomever won’t let you be yourself on your terms.

Either the person you’ve talked to about respecting your own buttons is going to notice & back off, or they’ll get hurt, get angry, or leave you alone.  Maybe they’ll even be enraged that you don’t care about them.  But wait– didn’t you already have that conversation about how for you, the mention of their “have to mention it all the time” issue is hurtful to you?

Right.  That.

I give myself permission to walk away once I’ve had the conversation and the person continues in the problem behavior.  I’m not going to fight with them, but I am also not going to waste time trying to make people understand further.   If they’re someone I mostly deal with online, well, thank goodness for filters– I can interact with them about things other than the hot button where possible.  If they’re someone I work with or live with, well, I just walk away from that conversation. Excuse myself, every time.

Food & weight are something I have kneejerk reactions around.  Both my parents are emotional, unhealthy, really overweight eaters who eat whatever’s in front of them and directly contrary to their explicit medical diagnoses, even to the point of it landing them in the hospital, and their pathological “eat everything on your plate” and “eat your feelings” attitudes have made me really fucked up when it comes to not feeling like I have to finish everything, and making healthy eating choices.  At 39, they still criticize me for not finishing everything on my plate, or serving a meal that doesn’t have meat in it even if 7/8 of the other meals in the week have animal protein.

Add to that the fact that I was bulimic in junior high so that I could find a way to stop being the fat kid no one wanted to be friends with, and that none of my family or “friends” noticed except to say I looked “great” and that it took getting sick from Lyme disease and then uncontrollably losing weight as a result (and still being told I looked “great”), and I not only have a lifelong aversion to chef’s salad (my food of choice at the time, and it now tastes like vomit) but have a distrust of anyone who compliments my appearance, because it reads to me as only a surface read.

When I got fat again after law school and then lost weight through a combination of low-carb/PCOS diagnosis and then having no control over further weight loss because my anticonvulsant bipolar med made me anorexic and have active revulsions to most foods, a lot of people told me that I looked “great!”

I felt pretty shitty about it, to tell you the truth.  None of my clothes fit, and people who’d never paid me any attention were flirting with me as if I was some new magic person.  I wasn’t.  Just thinner. There was only one person who asked during all of that time if the weight loss was something I had intended, and listened sympathetically– thank goodness for her.

My sister-in-law, who was an objectively physically attractive lady no matter her weight & couldn’t hear that,  had her own self-identified weight problems and had never been sympathetic (or maybe willing to acknowledge the reality of) to my mental health issues.  She even joked that she was going to get antidepressants if getting skinny was the result.  Since at the time I was seeing a nutritionist to try to put weight back on, the comment wasn’t appreciated, but arguing with her was like bashing my head on a brick wall.  My husband was mostly non-committal along the lines of “mm-hmm, if you think it’s important,” when I tried to talk about it with him, though toward the end, when I’d moved out of the bedroom and into the back bedroom, almost a YEAR after I’d started having weight issues, he caught me wearing a towel coming out of the bathroom and said, offhand, distracted– “oh, you have lost a lot of weight, I guess.”

Talk about being invisible.

Living with my dad now is its own struggle because he’ll eat everything in the house, and if I bake a treat he will eat anything I don’t hide.  He is dismissive of anything that wasn’t a real thing when he was in college (food allergies, medical diagnoses, etc.) and we’ve had a few screaming matches, but at the end of the day he knows, at least, not to poke me because I will poke back even harder, and he at least knows that my tongue is sharp, because I learned it from him.

“Are you putting on weight?”
“I don’t know, I still fit my clothes, so I don’t really care.  What’s it to you?”

“You should finish everything on your plate.”
“I’m 39, I’ll leave leftovers if I fucking want, the refrigerator works and we still have tupperware unless you have something to tell me.” (Yeah, maybe I shouldn’t swear but sometimes I will.)

“Why isn’t there meat in this?”
“Because dozens of human societies manage to thrive without it.”

At work now, in my health-oriented (obsessed) natural foods & organics oriented grocery store, there tends to be an, ahem, bias, toward healthy eating and fitness among the leadership, even as we sell cookies, chips, cakes, desserts, all kinds of healthy junk food.  It’s a contradiction I find not funny at all.  There are certainly less than Olympic-level fit members of leadership at all levels of the company, but there is a definite thread of anti-fat, anti-meat, pro-veganism, anti-dairy, pro-youth, almost fat-shaming in peoples’ private hearts in the company, and at the store level, it’s a dangerous thing in one-on-one conversations– something I’ve tried to correct when I hear it, one “you know, I’m a fat kid on the inside” conversation at a time.  It usually works, and people are usually shocked to find out I’ve been fat, because at 5’6″ and 170 lbs for age 39, I look “normal” or “good,” or “hot” and they “never would have guessed” I was my age, much less had ever been “fat,” but that’s the point, it’s all that external judgment again.  I point out that it’s none of their goddamned business what I look like as long as I am 1) in dress code and 2) able to perform my job, and that they need to get out of the game of deciding whether or not someone looks “good,” because not only is it a violation of our harassment policy and going to get their asses sued one day or another when they can’t keep their traps shut, but it’s also just straight out psychologically scarring and hurtful.

Dear world.  No one else needs your validation.  Ever.  And if you feel compelled to give it, compulsively, I suggest you seek professional counseling because there is something wrong with you that makes you feel the need to go around handing out gold stars.  (Let your counselor give you yours, and stop assessing the goodness of others.  The world has enough problems getting through the day.  Leave everyone to their own messes, okay?)  None of my less than skinny colleagues need validation of their looks, either, because they come in and do awesome jobs, and to be judged for anything other than that is just crap.  Starting in on “but they’d be happier if…” and “they aren’t healthy when…” is infantilizing.  DID THEY ASK YOU FOR HELP?  No.  Did you offer it once and they said no?  Ok, then.  The conversation’s over.  Forever.  The end.

I have lots of curvy-and-proud ladies of non-white backgrounds and heavyset dudes from all over who love their mom’s/spouse’s/their own damn cooking, and one of these days one of my skinny (to me, malnourished-looking) vegans or musclehead Latino bois is going to put his or her foot in it because no matter what they might think, there is no one dietary right way.  There’s a lot of science out there.  The minute you start getting religious about it in the face of someone else’s disagreement, it’s time to shut up and reassess why you’re so angry about someone else’s disagreement.

When it comes to diets and “healthy” eating, there is what works for you and makes you feel happy.

“Good” is so laden a word– not just physical attractiveness but value as a person– stay wide of it. Be specific if you feel the need to make compliments as small talk.  “You did a great job today.”  “It’s nice to see you!”  “Have a great weekend!”  “Hey, I like the new t-shirt!”  Focus on the things people do, that come from their hearts and their brains– not from their shapes.

Bodies and the food we put in it should be about love and pleasure, not substitution for the love & pleasure you don’t get elsewhere.   Food should be an opportunity for creative expression and fun, for sharing and an outlet at the end of a day of paper pushing– it should be whatever you mindfully want it to be.  And your body should do all the things you want it to do.  If you don’t want it to run a marathon, then no one else should judge you for that.

On any given day you have NO IDEA why someone is the weight that they are, heavy or thin.  Maybe they’re heavy because they’re happy that way.  Or struggling with a medical condition.  Maybe they’re thin because they’re having a medical side effect and working hard to gain back the weight, and are feeling pretty out of control about their appearance & body.  Maybe they do NOT feel like they look good at all.  Offering your unsolicited opinion on their physical attractiveness is not the way to validate their existence as a human, and in fact may be a pretty shitty thing to do to that person because you’re just mashing their buttons about how they feel about their out-of-control body.

Do you really want to be helpful?

Say hello.  Smile.  Ask someone how they are, and mean it, and stop long enough to actually listen if they don’t just tell you they’re “fine.” Maybe they’ll even tell you.

And if you ask them to participate in something and they say no, please respect the fact that people don’t owe you their whole medical or personal history just because you have a cause you’re interested in that has some good reasons behind it.  Their no isn’t a rejection of you.  It’s an affirmation of them.

Wild and precious

It’s not summer yet– we’re barely broken from winter
but the days are starting to hold that verge of wet
of mud, of emergent green, and the breeze may still bite down to the bone
but the sun is just that smidge brighter, the light a little more gold.
It’s enough of a promise to make the tangle of brush littered under the
thornhedge, the long brambles themselves in dire need hacking
a challenge, not something so daunting to send me back under cold covers.
The just now full moon is low in the still twilight sky–
not day, not night,
but that inbetween state when everything waits,
everything’s poised.

I am finally ready to leap even though last week, or was it last night,
I was ready to fall, or was it to crash?
Still, each day is different, I’m learning,
and today I heard a poet reading her verse about whelks.
I remembered that time toward the end
when we took a walk and collected our own– beautiful, broken,
all hollowed out.  I left them in the bowl your brother’s wife gave us when I left,
along with so much else of our life.  In abandoning most of our things,
it wasn’t so much a clean break as the fact that you can’t take it with you,
and it’ll just break your heart if you try.
Those whelks, though– it’s strange, the things your memory holds on to.
I know there were good times enough to make me stay so long,
not just my own fear or yours that kept me hanging around,
but all those times are blurred versus those last few trips
all tinged with the last light of summer, that and the things
that still make me burn with rage.
In hindsight, I should have leapt in the spring, but I’d hoped
you would be able to make the leap with me, to try to hold on,
so I won’t fault myself for trying.  Someone had to.

Tell me, what else should I have done?
You, unable to help yourself, much less me, and me,
asking for help you couldn’t admit I was always going to need?
It wasn’t so simple a matter as clearing out the winter’s detritus
or waiting for spring.   It wasn’t as clean as admitting
that things had changed, like the way sand and tide
whittled those whelks.
I still don’t know what a partnership is,
but I do know to walk away
from those who cannot choose joy simply
because they will lose it some day– that knowing, at least
is a prayer that I be my own best companion.

People and things are evanescent, it’s true.
I don’t know what you were expecting
in a world where we’re all born to die.
It is all wild and precious and, for the moment,
part of our life.  I know how to pay attention to that,
even if the attention is caressing the brittle shells of late winter,
rather than admiring the slime trail the snail leaves in June.
The snail doesn’t know how long he is here.
He just takes his time, and enjoys each blade of grass
during his slow, messy, mucous progress.
Perhaps that’s the first kind of prayer, the steady snail crawl.
Slow, onward, with your home on your back.

(With apologies to Mary Oliver & The Summer Day)